Valpo Voyager

Student Stories from Around the World

Author: econtreras

I’ll miss you Granada

Well no I’m not leaving yet, I still have about a week left here in Spain but as I’m writing this post, I am beginning to feel a little sentimental thinking back on the past four and half months I’ve lived here. That’s right. I LIVED here; my life has been completely changed. I’ve experienced a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’ll never be the same.

While I have done a bit of traveling and most of my blog posts have been about that because I wanted you to see the incredible opportunities you have when you study abroad, particularly in Europe (I can’t vouch for any other area). For this post I’d like to highlight a few of the common everyday things I experienced while living in Granada that I will miss.

  • My half hour walk to school every day….several times a day.
  • Tapas.
    • Because um, they’re free. How can you not miss them
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Why is this not a thing in the states? Seriously.

  • The Alhambra
alhambra

Beautiful Arab palace in my Spanish city. <3

  • Churros con chocolate
    • Nuff said.
churros

Yes, I’ll take three.

  • Euromania
    • Card night every Wednesday with the Squad.
This happens literally every Wednesday. We're regulars haha

This happens literally every Wednesday. We’re regulars haha

  • Cobblestone streets
    • Killer for the feet and long walks.
This is also the seal of Spain

This is also the seal of Spain

  • Walking everywhere
    • I have calves of steel now.
  • Erasmus trips
    • Some of my best and favorite memories.
Erasmus Granada- Best Life Experience. Literally is a best life experience. <3

Erasmus Granada- Best Life Experience.
Literally is a best life experience. <3

  • Tiny streets
    • Hi, yes, I’d like to not be hit with a moving vehicle, thank you.
Oh look! More cobblestone streets.

Oh look! More cobblestone streets.

  • Bread
    • Where’s the tortillas?..
  • Siesta
  • Dogs everywhere and walking without leashes.
    • Like why isn’t my dog so civilized?
  • The food
    • No it isn’t the same as home (I’m Mexican, can you guess what I eat on an everyday basis?…jealous?)
    • Nevertheless, I will miss some certain foods like tortilla de patata, and eggplant everything!
      • I still carried a bottle of hot sauce everywhere though.
  • Seeing graffiti everywhere. It’s beautiful especially since it has meaning.

machismo

Here there is no Granados, only Granadinos.

Here there is no Granados, only Granadinos.

These are only a few of the things that I will miss. I’m sure there is more but I feel like I won’t notice them until I am back in the states and I’ll be walking to class and I’ll miss having to dodge pigeons or saying hi to someone I know as they walk by. The closer it gets to the day I have to leave the more it hits me that I have made Granada my home and I’m really sad to leave it behind. The next time I come here, I possibly won’t be a student anymore and I most definitely won’t see the same people everyday like I used to. Coming here has really made me think about “change”, with all of the traveling I’ve done and hopefully will do, I have become accustomed to change. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. I have lived in a completely different culture the past almost 5 months and during that time I have traveled to other countries and experienced doubly different cultures. It’s difficult to fathom that I will miss having to adjust every few weeks because of this cultural change.

In short, I have learned that there is much to learn and I’m not done learning. Granada, Spain has introduced me to the travel bug and I’ll forever be infected, gladly. Today in one of my classes, a classmate presented on a muslim traveler, Ibn Battuta, who said a famous quote, “Traveling leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller.” This is 100% true. I’m glad I made the choice to study abroad and I’m even happier with the location I chose. It was the right choice for me even though I had people tell me otherwise. I made so many new friends and gained a  new perspective on everything basically. It’s like I see the world with a new set of glasses and I hesitate to think how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t taken this opportunity. I’m sad to leave Granada and my new found friends, but I am glad to be heading back home soon. Granada, I’ll miss you but I will be back soon!

What is study abroad?

It has come to my attention that not many really truly understand what it is to study abroad. Most think that it’s just a time to party and go out every weekend, traveling across Europe, and escaping the pressures of the taxing American norms. Well, while most of that may be true.. study abroad is so much more.

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#Guadalajara en Sevilla, Spain!! Of course I had to take a picture.

Study abroad is:

  • Finding your own way. Literally. You travel on your own and have to rely on yourself to find the hotel, meeting point, communicate with the locals.
  • Getting lost and having no GPS because your phone died or there’s no wi-fi.
  • Living with a host family
    • I know not many programs/students do this, but if you are offered the option..take it!! =) It’s the best way to get integrated into the culture. You experience more of the everyday lifestyle of a citizen of that country.
  • Missing the last bus of the day heading back to your city….and it’s a 3 hour walk back to your hostel.
  • Sharing a room with 12 other people because a hostel is cheaper than a hotel and you’re broke af. So bring out the padlocks and chains.
  • Getting pickpocketed on public transport.
  • Getting food poisoning in a foreign country and spending the day in the hospital
  • Missing the ferry back to Spain because you were in the hospital
  • Making the best of friends
  • Seeing your friends get engaged.
  • Trying new foods because you’re a cultured individual now…except the new thing you tried tastes like crap and you find out it’s blood sausage.
  • Your host mom overfeeding you
    • Hello, StudyAbroad 15
  • Trying to not be so “American” and blend in
  • Falling asleep in class. Oh wait, that happens at home too.
  • Meeting new people
    • #ERASMUS <3
    • Some of the best kinds of people I met and some of the best trips I have taken were through Erasmus and I strongly encourage it.
    • Step out of your American bubble and hang out with internationals not just locals too!
  • Having the time of your life
  • Finding yourself

I know the last two bullets are somewhat cliche but it is true. When you’re on your own not knowing anyone in a foreign country, your best friend, at least for the first couple of days is yourself. You get to learn who you really are because you are depending on you to get you through the day. Studying abroad is having everyday events happen abroad where you can’t deal with them in the same way. You get hungry at one a.m. you can’t just head out to the nearest McDonald’s and order drive-thru. You can’t drive to Wal-Mart or the pharmacy if you get sick at night and need Tylenol. You lose your debit card you can’t just walk to your bank and order a new one. Living abroad is having to change your lifestyle to fit in because you are not going to be living the “American” way anymore.

One of my Spanish friends and a few of my other friends from my program!

One of my Spanish friends and a few of my other friends from my program!

Some just don’t realize that there are bad days too. Everyone tells stories about how they got lost in Germany or they saw the Louvre, they walked the Great Wall of China, they took an African safari, but no one wants to tell you that they spent the night crying because they were so overwhelmed by all the changes. That they were having a rough time adjusting. They felt out of place, like they didn’t fit in. When they write their blog they only write about the good times, their travels because they want you to believe everything is all rainbows and sunshine. Well it isn’t.

When I was in Rome, I lost my wallet. Now it wasn’t smart of me to carry everything that I did in that wallet, but we were in a hurry to catch our flight to Rome from Barcelona and there was no time to think clearly. When it happened I was so frustrated that I could not find what I was looking for, I couldn’t understand a lick of Italian and I became careless. When I finally figured out that I didn’t have my wallet I lost total sense of …well everything. I couldn’t even sit down and cry because I had no idea what to do. I lost everything and there was nothing I could do about it. We raced to the police station to report my wallet but of course with my luck, it was closed. -_- Thank God for friends like mine because they helped keep me cheerful even though I was feeling down in the dumps.

These two beauties were my saving grace in Rome. Love them!

These two beauties were my saving grace in Rome. Love them!

Some of you might be reading this and thinking to yourself, “But you’re in freaking Europe, what is there to be sad about? At least you get to travel.” Yes, I know that. What I am trying to convey through this post is that, yea, I am having a great time. I had the opportunity to travel and I took it. Who wouldn’t? But every incredible and amazing opportunity has its risks and downfalls. You have to be prepared for those days that aren’t going to be so great. The days you will cry at night. The days you will find yourself feeling alone. The days where you will miss your family and home the most. The days where you realize that taking this chance wasn’t so you could enjoy yourself abroad but so that you could truly realize and appreciate what you have at home.

Crazy friends that I miss from back home.

Crazy friends

My beautiful family

My beautiful family

Straight Outta the Highlands

Hello!!! So a couple weeks ago, the weekend after I got back from Rome, my friend, Lauren, and I took a little excursion to Scotland because why not.

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Seems like a good enough reason right? Well I was so excited to go I could not stop talking about it. It has always been a dream of mine just like coming to Spain and traveling to Italy and Portugal. This trip has been a lot about accomplishing my goals and realizing my dreams.

Scotland has these thingies too!!

Scotland has these thingies too!!

My Scotland experience can be summed up in one word: hitchhiking. The UK is quite expensive compared to both Spain and the USA. So naturally I decided to save a few pounds and walk everywhere. However, since I have been living in Spain the past few months where they use the metric system, my perception of distance has been a little off. So I have no idea if something is far or not. Now, I measure everything by time. “It takes 30 min to powerwalk to school; It’s 20 min to the BK plaza; It’s an hour to the bus station, but if you take the bus it’s half an hour.” So a few of the cities I visited in Scotland are Edinburgh (pronounced e-din-bruh apparently), Inverness, Culloden, and Dores. Originally the plan was Inverness and Edinburgh but it worked out that we got to visit two other cities….unintentionally.

Lauren and I flew into Edinburgh and had an interesting experience trying to find where to exchange our euros to the british pound to pay for our hostel. The following morning we explored Edinburgh a bit, did a little sightseeing before we headed to the bus station to catch our bus that would take us to Inverness. (#Outlander!- currently a series I am reading written by Diana Gabaldon, also now a TV show, and it takes place in Scotland) Our bus ride was three hours long of beautiful scenery as we went from the Lowlands to the Highlands. Unfortunately I fell asleep for most of the ride so I wasn’t able to capture the beauty or see most of it.

First off, I absolutely LOVE Inverness! It’s a small little town but it is so cute! It’s located right by the River Ness and it’s quite a historical city. I mean it’s been there for at least 300 years. It’s the perfect little small town! The Scottish people are so friendly like our Southerners, except the Scots have weird accents. Don’t get me wrong, I love it! but I can’t understand it =( I kid you not.

Mini history lesson because there’s no way you can appreciate my experience if you don’t know anything about it.

So on April 16, 1754, the gallant Highlanders who fought for Prince Charlie and Scotland fought on Culloden Moor and sadly, that day was the last of the Highlanders and their ways. It was the bloodiest of all the Jacobite battles and the last fought on British soil. It lasted a little less than an hour. ***Jacobites were the supporters of King James VII (of Scotland) and II (of England) and his heirs. He ruled from 1685-89 but because he was Roman Catholic he was exiled and replaced by his daughter Mary and her husband, the Dutch Prince, William of Orange.*** There were three main Jacobite risings: 1689 “Bonnie Dundee” which ended rather quickly, “The Fifteen” (Mar’s Rebellion 1715-16), and lastly, (with which the Battle of Culloden pertains to) “Forty-five” (1745-46) when Charles Edward Stuart “Bonnie Prince Charlie” led the Scots against the Hanoverian dynasty.

Whew! Now isn’t learning fun?! The important part here is, I’m a history nerd, especially when it comes to warfare and the like because I have huge respect for those who fight and are willing to give their lives for what they believe in. Their reasons don’t always have to be religious.

Well back to the story, Lauren and I hiked all the way there…I think Lauren said it was around 6 miles?.. Took us about 2 hours, including the fact that we were slightly a little bit lost but we made it. It was beautiful and an awesome experience.

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Next on our list is our hike to Loch Ness! For all you future travelers!!….TAKE A TAXI OR THE BUS, YOUR FEET WILL THANK YOU. Trust me. 9 miles in cold, windy, rainy weather and you’re hungry and trying not to get hit by a bus or a car…the experience will change you. On the bright side, we made it to Loch Ness!!! OMG. Nessie was sleeping though :/ Here’s the funny part about our hike to Loch Ness, I bet it will make you laugh. Are you ready for this?.. Once we made it to Dores (the tiny tiny city at the tip of Loch Ness) we asked when the next bus to Inverness was. The bartender told us, “Oh honey, you just missed it.”

Excuse me.

I just walked 3 freaking hours to see Loch Ness. I have been walking all day (Culloden Moor), I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m not having it today and you tell me that I am stuck here and I have to walk back 3 hours to Inverness. I don’t think so. We’re calling a taxi! And so, we got a taxi (the ride was only about 20 min tops -_- and it took us three hours walking) but we made it back to Inverness tired and ready to go to bed. I’d say it was all in a good day’s work!

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The next day we boarded our bus to head back to Edinburgh. This time I actually took some pictures of the ride back but they’re not that great as I’m not a photographer and quite frankly I was anxious to get back to my book (Dragonfly in Amber- Diana Gabaldon #2).

I feel like Edinburgh has a totally different feel than Inverness. It’s more bustling and lively but a little less like home. Our last day in Edinburgh was an interesting one. We got to pet an owl, see lots of bagpipe players, and the world’s most pierced woman. (Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture).

Overall, I fell in love with Scotland and want to go back sometime in the future! It was one of my favorite trips I have taken since being abroad.  Scotland is so rich and full of culture I totally recommend you to go there for a visit, you will love it! I promise.

Bacpacking through Scotland got us like...

Bacpacking through Scotland got us like…

 

Semana Santa en Europa

Well you’re probably wondering “what in the world does that title mean?” I’m glad you asked. Semana Santa literally translates to Holy Week, otherwise known as my spring break, but no seriously, it is a thing here in Spain. Whether you’re Catholic, Christian, Muslim, etc. you may or may not know its significance. In the Catholic religion Semana Santa starts the Saturday before Palm Sunday and ends on Resurrection Sunday otherwise known as Easter. In Granada, where I am currently studying, there are least two or three parades or marches, if you will, that happen everyday during this week. They all consist of a float, a band, and others carrying crosses and/or reciting prayers. Whether you’re Catholic or not, you will certainly appreciate its beauty. Each float has a meaning behind it that also connects to the day it’s on. In Granada the most important days of Semana Santa are Jueves y Viernes Santo (Thursday and Friday). Now unfortunately, or not, I spent most of my semana santa elsewhere.

I spent the first half in Barcelona. (If you don’t know I had already visited Barcelona once before and I loved it. Of course I had to visit again.) My time in Barcelona was very “chill”. We weren’t rushing around trying to see everything. While I was there I finally got to see and tour Camp Nou (the official and home stadium of FC Barcelona). Now while in Barcelona we usually take the metro to get to places faster. If you know me at all, you know that I can’t find my way around the city. I am so afraid of getting lost that I won’t even go out. So, instead of taking the metro I chose to walk there instead. Trying to understand the directions and the map my friends showed me I was like ….hmmm okay…I’m gonna walk there. In the end I’m glad I walked because I got to see a part of Barcelona I hadn’t seen before, due to the fact that we took the metro everywhere. Camp Nou was absolutely fantastic.

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Can you guess who my favorite player is?

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We went to the zoo and found Kevin! and a variety of other strange birds. We also went to Parc Guell which was designed by Antoni Gaudi (famous Catalan architect). It was a rainy/cloudy day so we didn’t get to enjoy it as much.

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Kevin.

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Now onto the part you’ve all been waiting for!! ROME!

#NoMakeup #NoFilter #NoMoney

#NoMakeup #NoFilter #NoMoney

Now Rome is beautiful don’t get me wrong, but I feel like after being there for five days, I’ve had enough of the Holy City. My only purpose for going to Rome was to see the Colosseum, which I did! ON THE FIRST DAY! I have a fetish for Greek and Roman history so the fact that I got to stand on ground where so much history happened was…simply breathtaking. It was hard to wrap my mind around it. There are so many facts that I want to tell you, but this isn’t a history lesson jaja, so I’ll try and stick to the bare basics.

The Colosseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheater was named the Colosseum after a huge statue next to it called the Colosseo, was built in 72 A.D. by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty and it took 8 years to build. In 80 A.D. Vespasian’s son, Titus, opened the Colosseum with 100 days of games (gladiator fights, wild animals hunts, etc.) After four centuries of active use, the arena fell into neglect and parts of it were torn down and used for building material. It’s crazy to think that this arena could seat 70.000 people in an orderly fashion in under 30 minutes! It’s true, the tour guide said so.

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After the Colosseum we saw the Roman Forum and some of the gardens AND THE TREVI FOUNTAIN. https://www.instagram.com/p/BDRWWWwBW4C/?taken-by=estyluvscookies
(For your viewing pleasure =) my friends and I as we make our wishes at the Trevi Fountain.) Most of it is in ruins, of course, these buildings are ancient. It was still beautiful. Most of what Rome is today is built over the old city. The temple of Julius Cesar where he was supposedly stabbed and died is an excellent example of how you can see that modern-day Rome is built on top of ancient Rome. I am sorry my pictures are low quality for this here. It was nighttime when we saw this. Also fun fact: it is today a cat sanctuary! Strangely exciting.

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At the Roman Forum.

At the Roman Forum.

The Cat Sanctuary

The Cat Sanctuary

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The Pantheon

The Pantheon

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Steps where Julius Cesar was supposedly stabbed and died.

Steps where Julius Cesar was supposedly stabbed and died.

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Roman Ruins.

Roman Ruins.

Speaking of cats, my friends and I went to a cat café! We did a lot of walking that day. First we went to see the catacombs (rather unfortunately there were no bones or skulls adorning the walls, however, there were magnificent frescoes and whatnot). Catacombs, whether or not it is full of skeletons, are creepy and cold. Freezing cold.

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Oh! I must not forget one of the more beautiful parts of my visit to Italy. The Vatican. It is a plethora of riches let me tell you. The marble that was used to adorn the walls of the Colosseum?.. It’s in the Vatican. The Egyptian granite that was quarried and placed in the Roman Forum?.. The Vatican. Basically anything worth anything is in the Vatican.. However, it is beautiful. I’m not much of art person so I won’t say much about it except say that there are some serious magnificent pieces of artwork displayed there. Frescoes, paintings, sculptures, tapestries, statues, the works not to mention the Sistine Chapel. It is said that it is the second largest church/chapel in the world! The thing is HUGE. Can’t believe what the largest looks like.

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And to end this post on a good note…the food. O. M. G. Like, I cant even imagine ever eating pizza, pasta, and gelato ever again. Italy has ruined me. Yes, I totally just went all white-girl right there. #NoShame. But no for real…the food was literally like my favorite part of being in Rome.

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Gelato a day keeps the doctor away.

Gelato a day keeps the doctor away.

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Fettucine. YUM!

Fettucine Alfredo. YUM!

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And for the record, no I did not see the Pope so don’t ask.

Talk about crazy weather!

Well to make things a bit easier (both for me to write and remember and you to follow along) I’ll simply write out our schedule and add in little comments and pictures here and there. Here we go!!12698469_10154126110999767_4757268129007462716_o

Friday, Feb 26, 2016

  • 00:00h- Leave Granada (For the record, everything in Europe is in military time — good thing I’m already used to it!)
  • Sarah* and I had a bit of trouble trying to find the bus! We walked around the mall a couple of times until we finally saw it.
    • *Sarah was My traveling buddy and she’s the one with the short curly blonde hair un all My pictures. Just FYI.
    • This was around a 10 hour bus ride….O.M.G.
  • 09:30h- Arrival in Lisboa (Lisbon)
    • First impression: Lisboa is one of the most colorful cities I have ever seen! Every building is a different color so it’s very bright.12671654_1193460877350653_7757068149333131908_o
  • 12:00h- Tour through the city (Center of Lisboa and Castillo de San Jorge) and free time
  • It was raining like crazy! On top of that it was also very windy so….goodbye umbrella!
  • 21:30h- Dinner and FIESTA
    • My dinner was a prosutto piza (smoked ham pizza). I was a little cautious about trying new food since my trip to Morocco *ahem, food poisoning — not good*.

Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016

  • 07:30h- Breakfast
  • 08:30h- Leave for Sintra and Palacio da Pena12799348_1193464104016997_7406634054771943593_n
    • Sintra has a macroclimate which means they can experience 5 different kinds of weather in one day! It’s unique characteristics has had UNESCO name it as a world heritage for it’s “cultural landscape”.
    • The Palacio da Pena (the really colorful castle in my pictures, IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL) is the characteristic monument of Sintra. It’s on the Sierra of Sintra and it is surrounded by a garden in which thousands of botanical species live.
  • 14:00h– Qui12806109_1193464180683656_2056310597264667413_nnta da Regaleira is another site that we visited on this day. It´s enigmatic and very mysterious. There were underground tunnels and beautiful views.
  • 16:30h- Cabo da Roca
    • Welcome to the westernmost part of the known world!! ….At least until 1492 when Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas.12771733_1193466067350134_222056678952744301_o12791123_1193466097350131_384594422403717536_n
  • 18:00h- Return to Lisboa
  • 19:00h- Free time in Lisboa
    • Here Sarah and I made our dinner (pasta al dente….jk we’re not Italian, we can’t make pasta al dente =( but it was still good!)12779009_1193462244017183_5222514470237143088_o

Sunday Feb. 28, 2016 (Día de Andalucía)

  • 09:00h- Breakfast
  • 10:00h- Belem- Free time in Lisboa
  • Belem is where during the Golden Age the Portuguese ships would set sail towards new discoveries.
  • Here we also saw the Torre de Belem.12804602_10154126137619767_9015869314207799301_n
    • In Belem there is also the famous pastel de nata which is a pastry filled with custard and OMG it is DELICIOUS!!
  • 17:00h- Return to Granada
    • We didn’t get back into Granada until around 5 am! The bus driver got lost and so that added a bit of travel time.

Well there ya go! My crazy trip to Portugal was something I’ll never forget. I’m glad I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and go on this trip. I was afraid that I would be one of those that are too shy and would be isolated from the rest of the group, but that wasn’t so. The group leaders made it so that everyone was involved and overall had a great time.

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I’d like to say that at the end of this trip I had a great revelation about myself and what it’s like to be abroad blah blah blah, but I can’t. This trip literally just was me enjoying my time here and experiencing a different culture. It’s good to once in a while just do something for yourself, even if it’s just drinking a cup of tea in the morning and reading a book or taking a spontaneous trip to Portugal where the weather is unpredictable and you’re freezing your butt off! So this is me telling you to get off that couch, put your coat on (cause I know yall are in the middle of a blizzard over there ;D), grab a couple bucks and go on a mini road trip with your family and enjoy your time together. Life is short so enjoy it while you can! In the end, it’s the little moments that matter the most. =)

Let’s go to Barcelona!

So this is long overdue. After my trip to Morocco, I had 5 days off in which I could travel anywhere before class started. I decided to go to Barcelona and let me tell you, I had a blast!

It was a bit of a struggle to plan this trip as a couple of girls and I, we were going on this trip together, didn’t finalize our plans until literally the day before we left for Morocco, so it was very last minute. Also, we had no idea what we were going to do in Barcelona, we just knew we were going. Good plan. We vacillated at first between a few different options like Portugal, Swiss Alps, and Scotland, but nobody could decide what we wanted. Word of advice?.. Though we had a fantastic and I don’t think it could have gone any better even if we had planned it all, don’t leave it all till the last minute. Talk about a panic attack.

So here we go, embarking on a trip to Barcelona where we have no idea what we’re doing. Oh, by the way, we knew for a fact that we had to watch the Cheetah Girls 2 as it takes place in Barcelona.

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First day in Barcelona and we are totally disoriented. We had no idea how to get where we were going and even though a friend and I are fluent in Spanish, we still had trouble communicating because, you may not know, in Barcelona they speak Catalan. Catalan is a language that came from French and Spanish mixed together.  It’s a little weird. So here we are, trying to speak English and Spanish to the bus driver and trying to find a common language. It was quite an experience for me. Besides my trip to Morocco I have never really had a difficult time being able to understand people. We somehow managed to find our way to the hostel after wandering around for a little bit. In comparison to Granada, Barcelona is bigger and set up a little differently.

So many things happened in Barcelona it’s too much to write about, so instead I’ll highlight some of my favorite.

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These are a few pictures from the Basilica de Santa Maria. It is breathtakingly beautiful! It is around 600 years old and the only surviving cathedral in pure catalan gothic style.

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On our first night as we were wandering around, we wound up by the  shore and in good timing because there was a circus! Of course we HAD to go in. It was great because that night the tickets were half off, so we got front row seats! It lasted about two hours and it was full of acrobatics and little skits. The ringmaster spoke mainly in Catalan so again we didn’t really have any idea what he was saying. Imagine living in a country were there are 4 official languages and you just have to run through them all to find a way to communicate. You don’t really think about that in the USA because the official language is English and most everyone can speak it. Yea, there are other languages that are spoken but you are not hard-pressed to learn them. I just thought that was interesting and felt the need to share. It is an interesting thought.

Alright, up next is my favorite! La Sagrada Familia. It is one of the largest cathedral’s in the world and it is absolutely BREATHTAKING. I cannot even begin to describe to you how enormous and beautiful this building is. It was built by a Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi, who died in 1926. At the time of his death, the cathedral was not even a fourth complete and believe it or not, it’s still in construction today! It is estimated to be finished by 2030 I think, so it still has a while to go. Can you even imagine that?!

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There is so much detail you could spend forever and not see all of it.

I loved Barcelona so much that I am going back again for my Spring Break and I cannot wait! So hurray for Barcelona round 2 but until then, Lisbon, Portugal here I come! (Feb. 26-28)

Assalamo Aleykom (Peace be with you)

So this last week has been a week of firsts.

I went to continent of Africa for the first time as I visited Morocco for the first time. Morocco is definitely an experience I will never forget. I learned so much in my short four days there not only did I learn about the language and culture, but also more about myself and what I want to do. I know, starting to get a little deep there, but seriously, if I ever have the chance to go back I would.

First, let me start off by teaching you a few words that I learned whilst in Morocco.
Salam– Hello
 B’Salama– Bye
Koolhay– eat
Sabah– 7
Shrukan– thank you
Layla Saida– Goodnight

Smiti– My name is…

Waha– Okay

I don’t think I have ever experienced a language barrier (I am a native Spanish speaker so being in Spain is no biggie), but while I was in Morocco I had absolutely no idea how to communicate. I have huge respect for my fellow classmates that have little to no Spanish in their vocabulary. Trying to talk to my host family while in Morocco was a great experience and I picked up  on a few words and thoroughly enjoyed it. My host sister did speak some English so I was not totally lost.

https://youtu.be/Skwgk9duVaU

This link will show you exactly how I felt throughout my Moroccan travels.

I want to give an overall schedule of what happened during my stay in Morocco.

Day One: Tarifa – Algeciras- Rabat

  • Boat journey across the Mediterranean Sea from Algeciras, Spain to Tangier, Morocco
  • Visit the women’s center, DARNA, including informal conversation with Moroccan students
    • This was one of my favorite activities. We talked a lot about cultural diversity, education, and women’s rights in Morocco. You would think that Morocco, being an Islamic country, women would have little to no freedom but that is not the case! Women are very educated and sometimes may even have more freedom/opportunities than men.
  • Lunch at DARNA
    • Uh, extremely delicious!
  • Drive to Assila along the Atlantic coast
    • WE RODE CAMELS!! And for the record, camels must really like me since they were trying to eat my hair and even chased me across the beach!

      Can you tell that I am very excited? (sorry it might be a little dark)

      Can you tell that I am very excited? (sorry it might be a little dark)

  • Walk through the Medina (old town) of Assila
  • Dinner with home stay families
    • Also delicious. Also, our bedrooms were freaking awesome and so was my host family! Sending them lots of love!

Day Two: Rabat

  • Breakfast
    • Did I happen to mention that Moroccan food is delicious??
  • Conversation with Moroccan students
    • Again this was very educational. It was interesting learning their point of view on things. For example, Moroccans have free education yet even with a PhD, it is extremely difficult to obtain a job. Also despite the fact that their education is free, it is not A+ quality. It is amazing to think about all the opportunities we have and yet they go unnoticed. To be completely honest, I was a little jealous at first at hearing about their free education and how they are taught English and/or French at a young age, but even then they are hard-pressed for a job.
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Some of the Moroccan students who spoke with us.

  • Visit the Roman ruins–Chellah and the Mausoleum of King Mohammed V
  • Lunch with host family
    • Need I say it?
  • Exploring Rabat’s Kasbah (old fort), street life, and the Medina market with Moroccan students
    • This was a memorable night. #IHAAAAAB (inside joke) *see video attachment*
    • https://youtu.be/uaMXFmESIi4
    • Again, spending time with these Moroccan students is very insightful. I cannot stress enough how important it is to learn about every culture you come across! Please take the time to learn something about the next country/city you visit. It will be worth your while, I promise!!
This is us yelling "IHAAAB" as we take the picture.

This is us yelling “IHAAAB” as we take the picture. (excuse the blurriness on my pictures, for some reason they upload that way)

  • Hammam
    • I definitely got to know my classmates a whole lot better after this. I suggest you research this activity on your own. I highly recommend it, though maybe in a lesser public setting. =)
  • Dinner
    • YUM!

Day Three: Rabat – Rif Mountains – Chefchaouen

  • Breakfast
  • Drive to Rif Mountains
  • Lunch with family in a mountain village
    • This family was absolutely precious. They were so open to us and friendly. They were also very curious about our culture as Americans. This was also a very different experience from all of the other cities we visited. Mostly in the way that the family lived because they were in a more rural area. #SquatPots
  • Drive to Chefchaouen
  • Settle in hostel and explore the Medina
    • Time for bargaining and henna!
  • Dinner
    • Umm…DELICIOUS!!
  • Reflection time
    • We all spoke about what we had learned and what had surprised us the most. It was an intimate moment for us as we sat around two melting candles wrapped in our blankets.

Day Four: Chefchaouen – Ceuta – Tarifa

  • Breakfast
    • Unfortunately, I was becoming deathly ill at this point (must have been all the delicious food I had been eating…overdose?) and I did not have any breakfast that morning. I was having some gastrointestinal issues otherwise known as traveler’s diarrhea, a fantastic thing really….NOT!, and I was dehydrated and eventually received some medical care. PIECE OF ADVICE: PLEASE KEEP YOURSELF HYDRATED WITH BOTTLED WATER!!
  • Drive to Ceuta
  • Boat journey across the Strait of Gibraltar
  • Arrival in Tarifa, Spain

My trip to Morocco is something that I will never forget. I learned so much and from my time there I can tell you two things:

  1. Muslims are NOT terrorists. They are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. It is not part of their culture to blow things up or terrorize people. In fact, they are afraid of what ISIS might do next. Please do not let the media dictate your thoughts towards places you have never visited.
  2. Never be afraid to experience different things or go out of your comfort zone. Enjoy life and the opportunities while you have them. Privileges.

Morocco was fun and adventurous but I never thought that I would be so happy to be back home, because that is what Granada is to me now. Home. And I never want to leave.

Hola desde España!

Well, I made it. I didn’t think that the day would ever come.

There are so many things that I could write about my first impression of Granada, however, my first few nights here…jetlag. Any advice that I could give is do NOT sleep when you get here; try to stay on their schedule. I was up all night long because I had slept a few hours as soon as I had arrived. Let me tell you though that Granada has a crazy nightlife. They are up all hours of the night mostly on weekends though. It is mostly a student city so you’ll see a lot of college students out in the streets.

It has been a great first week here in Granada. I got lost in the city a few times (the best way to get to know a city by the way) and made some great new friends! On the first day here to get to Granada I had to take a tiny plane where there wasn’t much room to move around. As soon as I arrived in Granada, I took the airport bus to the City Center and managed to find my hotel without losing any of  my luggage. That was an adventure all in itself.

I’m from Chicago. One reason I absolutely love Granada so far is that it’s small enough to get around, yet big enough to get lost in. Of course, that might also be because of the winding streets that don’t make much sense. Compared to Chicago, the streets of Granada are like a maze.

This is one of the larger streets in Granada. You can safely walk on the sidewalk without being cramped up against four other people.

This is one of the larger streets in Granada. You can safely walk on the sidewalk without being cramped up against four other people.

 

My favorite part of Granada is, of course, the food! Here everyone goes out for tapas. Tapas are like appetizers that are served with your drink. Mostly all the tapas involve some type of bread, but they are delicious. The best part? They’re free with your drink.

These are some tapas and they are called "croquetas". They are basically like a fishstick.

These are some tapas and they are called “croquetas”. They are basically like a fishstick.

 

 

It’s been a little crazy finally getting used to the Spanish schedule, but I am getting there. That’s all I have for now. Hasta luego!

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